Definition of phonetic in US English:



  • 1Relating to speech sounds.

    ‘detailed phonetic information’
    • ‘The basic phonetic unit of pirate speech is the single long-drawn-out letter: R, I, A, etc.’
    • ‘A traditional phonetic transcription represents speech as a succession of segments.’
    • ‘An appendix also supplies phonetic transcriptions for five sonnets and fifteen speeches or scenes from the plays.’
    • ‘Within this framework, speech input could be analyzed into phonetic features that are connected to a phonemic level of representation.’
    • ‘Lawrence Carrington's St. Lucian Creole is a valuable handbook for anyone interested in the phonetic and morphological structure of Creole speech.’
    1. 1.1 (of a system of writing) having a direct correspondence between symbols and sounds.
      ‘a phonetic alphabet’
      • ‘Next he contends that Iroquois orality and phonetic writing stand in equal relation; he supports this claim through his metacommentary on translation and literacy and through his allusions to the Bible.’
      • ‘Champollion went on to show that for most of their writing, the scribes relied on using a relatively conventional phonetic alphabet.’
      • ‘In addition to the adaptation of Chinese characters to pre-existing Japanese vocabulary, two phonetic systems of writing were developed after the ninth century.’
      • ‘Since Spanish is a much more phonetic language-each vowel has a single sound-the tasks required of students in the word analysis content area do not easily transfer between the two languages.’
      • ‘Its Cyrillic alphabet is phonetic; its grammar is synthetic, conveying information through word modification rather than order.’
    2. 1.2 Relating to phonetics.
      ‘the teachers should receive phonetic training’
      • ‘It was generally agreed that professional language teachers should receive phonetic training, and that at the school stage the teacher should preferably be of the same language background as the pupils.’
      • ‘Language CD-ROMs, which combine photographs, sounds, literal definitions and phonetic explanations, can contribute to restoring, sustaining and promoting of Aboriginal languages.’
      • ‘I just copied the story uncritically from Wucker's account and from Dove's poem, and of course neither of them is trained in phonetic vocabulary or its application to speech.’


Early 19th century: from modern Latin phoneticus, from Greek phōnētikos, from phōnein ‘speak’.